Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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June 2007 • Volume XI, Issue 14


The Cares of Marriage (1)

In I Corinthians 7:32-35, the apostle Paul develops an argument in favour of singleness from the cares of marriage.

Regarding the single man, we read, "He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord" (32). By definition, an unmarried man does not have the responsibility of caring for a wife (and children). His position, therefore, is one of relative freedom: freedom from marital cares and freedom to focus on serving the Lord with single-hearted devotion. Thus single men, ordinarily, have greater liberty for private prayer, fasting (5) and personal Bible study. With fewer restraints, they can more easily make time to read good Reformed literature, listen to biblical materials on CD or tape, attend church activities, do good to others, etc.

Unmarried men, is this what you are doing? As those who are single, you have greater leisure for such activities than you would have if you were married. Are you using the advantages peculiar to your state? Are you conscious of these advantages? Your calling before God is to be thankful for the greater opportunities you have and use them wisely. This includes preparing yourself for married life, if this is your desire. Use your freedom to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, so as to be able to lead your wife in the Reformed faith and in all godliness.

I Corinthians 7:32-35 brings us back to the Christian’s principle calling: pleasing the Lord. Glorifying God is man’s chief end, as the first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism reminds us. We are commanded to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). This is the purpose and meaning of the believer’s life.

We all know that there are drawbacks with being single. Many unmarried men earnestly want to be married and are seeking a godly wife. But do not let any of this blind you to the unique advantages you have while you are single to give yourself wholeheartedly to the things of the Lord.

This shows us that the single life is not to be about selfishness. You are not to reason, "I have greater freedom, so I’ll do what I want!" Instead, think, "I have greater freedom, so I’ll use it to seek the good of Christ’s church and kingdom in order to please Him."

The same principles apply to the single woman: "The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit" (I Cor. 7:34). Give yourself to the Word and prayer, to good works and to the service of your congregation with the goal of pleasing the Lord.

The slight difference in wording between the calling of single men (32) and that of single women ("that she may be holy both in body and in spirit;" 34) underscores the fact that it is holiness that pleases God. The greater freedom of single persons is to be used (consciously) to increase in sanctification—to consecrate themselves, body and soul, to Him who bought them, body and soul, and to lay aside sins and worldliness, and to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord. This is precisely what all single men and women should be doing now, whether they believe that God calls them to lifelong singleness or whether they hope to be married one day.

This means that the goal of single Christians is not marriage. The goal of single believers (and married ones) must be to please the Lord. Single Christian, please the Lord in using your greater freedom in divine things. And if you want to be married, please the Lord in this too by seeking a godly spouse and being chaste in your courtship.

The apostle goes on to contrast the greater freedom of a single man with that of a married man: "But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife" (33). A Christian husband must provide for his wife (and children)—a home, food, clothes, etc. He must nourish, protect and look out for her. He must commune with his wife and listen to her. If they have children, he must spend time with them. Perhaps he must work long hours to support his family.

In everything he does, he must think of his wife, taking her into account—her concerns, her preferences. Now he has two people to think of and not just himself. This means, of course, that he must get to know his wife (I Peter 3:7). As her head, he must lead her—not as a tyrant or as a bully or as an unfeeling brute. He must lead her in the right path, for her good, and out of love for her.

Paul’s point here is not that this is a chore or a drag but that being married divides a man’s attention. A single man’s calling is to care for the things of the Lord. A married man must care for the things of the Lord and "for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife" (I Cor. 7:33).

Thus it is harder for married men to remain focused on what must be the one great thing in the Christian’s life: serving and pleasing the Lord. Think of even some of the basic things. It is harder to make time for private prayer when you no longer have your bedroom solely to yourself. Fasting is more awkward when you live with a wife and children. Opportunities to read God’s Word or a good Reformed book are fewer with the demands upon your time made by wife and children. Rev. Stewart

The Everlasting Destruction of Death and Hell (1)

And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever ... And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death (Rev. 20:10, 13-14).

One of our readers writes, "Revelation 20:10 says the devil and the beast and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire where they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Verse 14 says that death and hades are thrown into the lake of fire, and [the verse] describes this as the second death. Does this mean that hell is temporary? Please explain what seems to be a contradiction and what the second death means."

As our readers know, Revelation 20 is a difficult chapter and there is much difference of opinion concerning its proper interpretation. The two most important interpretations are those of the premillennialists who explain the one thousand years (2) as a literal one thousand years during which Christ will reign on earth with the Jews in the land of Canaan. The amillenialists interpret the chapter as symbolic and reject the idea of a literal thousand years, or, for that matter, a special arrangement of God with the Jews as His "kingdom people." But it is not our intent to enter this controversy, although the two positions have some bearing on the meaning of the verses under discussion. Without any question, the amillennial position is the correct one, and the verses referred to in the question are, it seems to me, intelligible only within an amillennial interpretation of the chapter.

It is clear from the entire passage (10-15) that the final judgment is described—perhaps in the most graphic way to be found anywhere in the whole of Scripture. It is fitting that thus God ordained the Scriptures to be written, for the judgment day is the theodicy, that is, the day when God will be publicly justified in all His works from creation to the coming of Christ. It will then be shown for all the world to see that God is just and righteous in the everlasting punishment of the wicked in hell for their sins, and just and righteous in His salvation of His own through the blood of the cross. All the denials of His blessed name and of the rule of Christ will be shown for what they are: wicked and proud boasts of the enemies of the gospel. All the crooked shall be made straight. All the hypocrisies, lies, and empty shows of good works will be manifest for what they really were. All the rewriting of history by the wicked will be publicly revealed as lies. All the flouting of God’s holy Word and commandments will be punished in hell. And, above all, the small, hated, persecuted church which stood for the cause of Christ in the world will be shown for all to see that that church is the beloved of God, the cause of His Son and the bride of Christ. It will be manifest that Jehovah was sovereign in all His works and did all His good pleasure for the glory of His own name.

It will be a great and glorious day, one to which the saints can look forward with eagerness. But for the theodicy to be accomplished, all rational and moral creatures (including men, demons and angels) who ever lived have to be there. The devil will be there with his demons, trembling in terror before the great white throne, for he was the one most responsible for the dreadful sins of the human race. The beast, who is the Antichrist, will be there, for he persecuted the church and set himself up as God Himself (II Thess. 2:3-4). What a confrontation that will be! The false prophet will there, that is, the whole false church, which conspired with Antichrist to defeat the cause of Christ. This false prophet is drunk with the blood of the martyrs (Rev. 17:3-6). These are the most notorious of those whose judgment is the greatest.

But all men who have lived through all history will be (and must be) there as well, for it is the final judgment of all men. Those who died at sea, whose bones lie in the ocean’s depths, will be there (20:13). But death and hell will also be there. That is, all those who have ever lived and whose bodies returned to the dust will be raised in their bodies to stand before the throne on which the glorious Christ sits in judgment.

Perhaps to understand the verses more fully, it might be well to remember that the word translated "hell" in verses 13 and 14 is better rendered "hades." The Greek word for hell is a word from which we get the term "gehenna." Hades means "the place of the dead between the physical death of men and the resurrection of the body." We have here, therefore, what is called a hendiadys, a literary figure in which a complex idea is expressed by two words joined by the conjunction "and." Such a figure of speech is common in the Scriptures. For example, Jesus words, "I am the resurrection, and the life" (John 11:25), mean, "I am the resurrection because I am the life."

So the two terms together refer to the death of all men, because of God’s own words to Adam, "the day thou eatest thereof [i.e., of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:17). In other words, the grave and that state of the dead between physical death and the final resurrection will give up every one in them so that they might stand before the judgment seat of Christ.

The rest of my answer shall have to wait until the next News. Prof. Hanko

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